tv CNN Presents CNN May 28, 2011 8:00pm-9:00pm PDT
>> life changing experience to fly kites in the water. incredible. that will do it on this memorial day saturday. i'm drew griffin at the cnn world headquarters in atlanta. hope to see you back here tomorrow night. see you then. this is how it began. the wisps in the distance, the roar. >> listen to it! >> reporter: the flashes of transformers and power lines and it kept on growing and growing and growing into a massive, angry monster. >> oh, it's getting big, big, big. >> that's huge. >> oh, gosh. that is a monster tornado.
>> reporter: battle hardened storm chasers in awe of nature's power. >> oh, my gosh. this is awful. dude, the trees are debarked. >> reporter: residents running for every anywhere they could. >> everybody get down, all on the ground. >> reporter: in a crowded convenience store, some 20 people hunkering down in a darkened commercial refrigerator. >> can we go in the cooler? [ screaming ] >> go! >> oh, dear heaven. >> god! >> reporter: at the same time a security camera in a nearby frozen yogurt shop catches the chaos. workers moving customers to the back and then -- everything goes flying. the massive tornado mowing down everything in its path.
people's lives churned up and spewed out. >> here's the gas station that we were at. >> reporter: this is the convenience store now. >> this would have been where we walked in. >> reporter: all across the city, thousands and thousands of people in shock, taking the first steps on the long road to recovery. make no mistake, joplin, missouri, will rebuild, but it will never be the same. hello and welcome to this one-hour cnn special report on the joplin, missouri, tornado and other deadly storms. a twister's fury: in the path of destruction. i'm drew griffin. just hours from now president obama will be on the ground in joplin for his first look at what's left of this devastated city. 142 people have lost their lives. another hundred are missing yet amid the widespread destruction cnn found people already starting to rebuild.
>> this is america. and we're going to rebuild it. >> reporter: four days after an historic tornado demolished much of joplin, missouri -- >> why don't you cut them and put them underneath? >> reporter: contractor darren collins started construction on the first new building to emerge from the rubble. >> at some point we have to stop scratching our heads and staring at the rubble and get things back to normalcy. >> reporter: he's rebuilding his wife's beauty salon. he built once before 17 years ago. on tuesday collins discussed the idea with shocked officials. wednesday they gave him the ok to start and thursday the construction began. >> we have had an enormous outpouring of generosity and help to get prepared to get to this point. the city's been great. the city allowed us a permit in record time. >> reporter: there is no electricity in joplin. the substation across the street remains in ruins, so a generator
powers the tools. >> time to roll up our sleeves and move on with our lives. >> reporter: passers-by stopped to offer encouragement and support. >> i just had two police officers stop by and say man i want to shake your hand. the first glimmer of hope we have seen towards the town rebuilding. >> reporter: four homes collins built in the last year are in ruins. he already has six projects waiting to be rebuilt. >> my heart goes out to everyone who lost loved ones. i hate for it to come to this to bring business to the area, but i believe everyone here will surprise the country with the rate we can come back. >> reporter: after so much tragedy and so much devastation collins takes solace in the cross at the church across the street and in support he received from his community. >> i thank god to live in such a place.
>> casey joins us live from joplin. the collins story is inspirational. also inspirational is the amount of volunteers flooding to that city, literally. >> reporter: that's right, drew. it's incredible. we have seen people from all over the country flocking to joplin to help out. church groups, other volunteers, people doing search and rescue efforts on their own. the city says there are officially 2,500 volunteers registered, but they believe there's at least 3,000, perhaps even more than that, including the folks who have just come here on their own to decide to help out. it's really showing that this city is committed to rebuilding and it's something that needs to happen -- this cleanup process that these volunteers are helping with -- before the rebuilding can begin in earnest, drew. >> tomorrow the president arrives in town. presidents wonder if they will be a help or a hindrance because they take so much of the local law enforcement away from what needs to be done.
what's the impression there of the president's visit? >> reporter: well, the local fire chief said that this is still a rescue and recovery operation. so it is going to slow some things down because they are going to need 130 law enforcement officers just to line and provide security for the president's motorcade from the airport to the place where the services are going to happen tomorrow afternoon, but they say they are willing to put up with that delay, with that inconvenience to bring attention to what's happened here. they need help from the federal government. >> casey wian, thanks. imagine living to this tornado, clinging to the plumbing inside a restroom, the only thing saving your life the strength of the toilet bolts, pipes on the sink and your arms. there was a pharmacy across from the st. john's medical center. he joins us live from joplin. tell us what happened.
>> electricity started to flicker. computers went down. i decided to open the back door to make sure. when i opened up i saw a massive wall. the magnitude was unbelievable. it was your whole peripheral vision of field -- or field of vision. >> so what did you do? >> well, i saw that and i knew we were in serious trouble, obviously. but i didn't want to panic the girl i was working with and i said, we've got to go, go, go. so we headed for the front door and then desi saw that sammy was shutting down a register in the convenience store, talked to her. i said, we don't have much time. we've got to go. with that, i was at the front door. it took the door out of my hand and jerked it off. i said, we don't have time. we've got to get to the bathroom. so we headed into the bathroom at that point in the center part of the store. we sat down. she slid to the left side of the toilet, i got to the right. we hung on to the side of the toilet and i was holding the
pipes under the sink. the whole building was coming apart. >> how long did that frightening moment last when you're just basically clinging the commode? >> it was longer than you would imagine. of course, those seconds are always long on something of that magnitude. we survived the first wall. i was just hoping that it wouldn't breach the bathroom wall structure. that held for a little while, but the first wall took that out. we could see daylight. but then it calmed down for a second and we could open our eyes a little bit. i looked around and i thought i couldn't believe we had survived that because the wind and the pressure was tremendous. i thought, we must be in the eye of this thing. sure enough, it started picking up again and the backside of it was much worse. that's when i got hit in the back and that's when there was actually another person in the other bathroom that i didn't realize. he was injured. >> when the danger had passed, you realized you were going to make it, there must have been a
moment when you stood up, looked outside and realized from the time you got in that bathroom to the time you got out, the world of joplin had changed. >> well, actually, you know, i just was trying to get myself out with desi. we got out. you don't think the rest of the world would disappear around you. at least i didn't. i wanted to get everybody. we were alive. i kept telling everybody, we're alive. we're okay. so we headed to the hospital. but when we walked outside it was a new world. everything was gone. everything was gone. and it was amazing. as big a structure as st. john's is, when we got to the inside of it, it was a complete disaster. i thought it would take out part of it, you know, in the front part, but it had sucked the whole inside on the ground floor out. >> rance, as i look behind you there, i'm just wondering, do you see signs of hope? do you see signs that your community is going to come back from this?
>> it will come back. it will take time. i think the people are strong here. i think we'll make it, but we do need a lot of help. a lot of these people are not high income people, so they will need assistance to get this going. >> rance junge who survived this tornado clinging to a toilet. thank you for your observations. >> okay. >> thanks a lot. now this. >> it's coming! the power lines right here. >> up next, a look back at this week's devastating tornadoes and a couple's lives are spared by taking refuge in a safe room. you will hear their harrowing story. with bengay pain relief plus massage
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storms that began their march through the nation's mid section. day after day the warnings were posted. by the time it was all over cities large and small would never be the same. we want to give you a day-by-day look at the most dramatic images of this week. >> it's coming. the power lines right here. >> we're good. >> my god. >> let's get up there. >> come on.
[ hail ] >> listen to it! >> oh, man. >> it's getting big, big, big. >> it's huge. >> i got it all on video. >> sounds like a waterfall. wedge tornado. >> it is on the outskirts, the edge of waverly now in a more populated area. >> oh, my gosh. oh, my gosh. there it is. there it is. oh, gosh, that is a monster tornado. >> it's crossing the road right where we --
>> oh, my god. back up. oh, no. stop. oh, no. what did it destroy? oh, it's a trailer house. slow down. >> very large tornado. [ sirens ] >> we just had a power flash. hopefully -- >> oh, my gosh. >> hopefully they will get everybody out of there and safe. >> the motion is tremendous. david payne, are you with us? >> killer tornado. across highway 81 it intensified and it almost got us. it intensified right on top of us. amazing. >> this was a violent tornado. you see how it's carving out a v-shaped debris cloud. we'll let this roll. this was live for 25 minutes.
that's the new water tower. watch this as it comes into goldsby. folks were watching and they were in their safe spot. a lot of folks got out of town. they were in their safe spot because homes are obliterated. >> right there. right there. you got it. we got a funnel. >> tornado on the ground. tuckerman, arkansas. >> just amazing pictures from this past week. the death toll could have been much higher in these storms if it weren't for the so-called safe rooms in homes. a safe room is a fortified structure, steel, concrete made supposedly to withstand a tornado. the bieligk family in joplin say
dhar safe room saved their life. t.j. holmes had a firsthand look. >> reporter: you guys are accustomed to severe weather in the midwest and this part of the country. when did this start to feel any different? >> this storm, even though initially to me started like pretty much every other storm that we know. we hear the warnings on the television. we keep an eye out the window. >> reporter: when did your own personal alarm bells start going off? >> you know, they were down stairs, eating, watching a movie and i was upstairs, watching tv, like i said. i looked outside and it was dark. it looked scary, but it wasn't that much different, but something said go down stairs. as soon as i said it, the power went off. >> we got in the room. she closed the door and then my ears started popping.
>> oh, terrible. >> as if we were going up in an airplane. i had never experienced that before. >> reporter: how many times have you all used this in the past? >> never. been here three years. >> reporter: you have never used your safe room? >> never. two and a half weeks ago i cleaned it out. >> reporter: you were using it as a closet. >> we were. >> reporter: did you feel safe when you got in here and closed the door? >> i was against the door and it was shaking so hard. i just was laying against it. you could feel the pressure. >> yeah. see, this is wood on the top so there was a lot of banging going on. >> just sounded like everything was exploding. >> reporter: where in your house could you have survived if you didn't have this room. >> not anywhere else in the house besides down here. >> reporter: if our daughter isabella had been in her room she surely would have died. her whole window exploded in.
just glass everywhere. >> upstairs there is a board from the fence that actually goes right through the wall like it was going at 200 miles an hour. >> just wouldn't have been okay. >> everything on the top floor was shot. >> everything had just exploded. everything was everywhere. i mean, it was like a war zone. i turned around and went and told my kids, nothing looks the same, but we are all alive. >> reporter: today, what do you think about the attitude you used to have about this room? >> i would never live in this area without a room like this again. it saved our lives. >> from now on we will keep it cleared out so we can get in here. >> it's a blessing. now listen to this. >> the sirens sounded and the warnings went up.
we ferried everyone into the basement of the gymnasium which is where the shelter is. >> coming up next, high praise for red cross volunteers who helped many victims while suffering personal loss of their own. ♪ [ male announcer ] in 2011, at&t is at work, building up our wireless network all across america. we're adding new cell sites... increasing network capacity, and investing billions of dollars to improve your wireless network experience. from a single phone call to the most advanced data download, we're covering more people in more places than ever before in an effort to give you the best network possible. at&t. rethink possible.
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we have indication that there have been 142 human remains found within the city of joplin. >> that announcement from today and as the death toll rises in shattered joplin, missouri, those who survived last sunday's tornado are trying to make sense of the catastrophe that upended their lives. destroyed almost everything around them. cnn's casey wian says some are finding faith and hope at a red cross shelter. >> reporter: blown away. a town, a community torn apart. he lost his hospital, his home and nearly his father. >> i was just calling him out. i was yelling his name. dad, dad, are you there? >> reporter: he nearly lost his
life. >> i thought i was going to die, truthfully. >> reporter: like so many trying to pick up the pieces of their lives in joplin, missouri, dr. zaidi and john ness have been ravaged by this disaster. but they have both found faith and purpose at this makeshift red cross center on a campus of missouri southern university. >> we have been sleeping in the dormitory in there. >> reporter: ness is lucky to be sleeping anywhere today. when the tornado devastated this town he was literally sucked through the wall of his home. >> the wall of the house, i went through it and out to the backyard. the trees were falling, fell, smashed everything in the backyard. >> reporter: he's lost much. everyone here has. all scarred perhaps permanently by this killer storm. >> every time i hear a bang or a boom i'll jump.
i never was like that. it scares me. >> reporter: ness counts his blessings. >> if it wasn't for the lord i wouldn't be here. like i said, sunday morning i got saved. sunday night i got blowed away. >> reporter: ness also has high praise for the red cross and its tireless volunteers like dr. zaidi. >> walk a little bit. keep your legs moving. >> reporter: he's tending to those in need. >> i'll check up on you later. >> reporter: even as he struggles with staggering losses in his life. >> we lost our home. the hospital is destroyed. my office is destroyed. >> reporter: dr. zaidi was at st. john's hospital when the tornado cut through it. >> i had no idea about my family. we lost contact. >> reporter: frantic, uncertain hours followed but then word
finally came through, first from his daughter then dr. zaidi's wife they're okay. but someone was still missing -- his father. >> we went to my parents' house. he was there. he was stuck there in the rubble. you know, he was stuck in his room. he just couldn't get out. >> reporter: as in so many scenes that have played out all over joplin, dr. zaidi was forced to dig to save a loved one. >> we found a path. we cleared up stuff. we just kind of pulled him out from there at 2:00 in the morning. >> reporter: throughout this temporary red cross shelter there are similar stories of dramatic rescues, close calls and agonizing losses. >> we are homeless, jobless, carless. but, believe me, i think that we
are so lucky to survive this. and right now we just have to start from scratch. you can help them start from scratch. here is how. log on to cnn.com/impact and check out our special page. it has all the tools you need to make a difference for those people in joplin. well, where do the sick and injured go when their town's main hospital is blown away by a tornado? we're going to take you inside st. john's hospital in joplin, missouri, next. [ female announcer ] the healing power of touch
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i guess i kept thinking what it would have been like for my brothers had they not been able to find me. you know, what it would have been like for them. i'm glad they found me. i don't want to do that to them. >> caring for the victims of this tornado is made even more difficult after the place joplin has counted on for care, its largest hospital, became part of the rubble field. st. john's hospital found it at the center of the storm. >> oh, my gosh. >> look at this.
oh, my gosh. oh, my gosh. >> reporter: what happens if disaster strikes -- >> went right through here. >> reporter: if the worst happens. >> oh, my gosh. >> reporter: and the hospital is at the center of the storm. >> oh, no. it's the hospital. >> reporter: st. john's hospital, joplin, missouri, the biggest hospital for miles around. >> st. john's is a 230-bed acute care hospital. >> reporter: jim risko has been an e.r. doctor at st. john's for the last 17 years. >> this is a very, very sophisticated hospital in a relatively small town. >> i was down the road playing horseshoes. >> reporter: on may 22nd andrew mcdaniel came to the hospital to visit his grandmother on may 27.
as he arrived, a sound familiar to every mid westerner. >> the sirens started going off. i looked and didn't see much other than dark clouds over there. i didn't think anything of it. >> reporter: but in those dark clouds, a monster tornado was headed right for them. at st. john's it was the moment they trained for that they hoped would never come. >> we drill -- well, actually just by virtue of the fact that we're in tornado alley down here, we prepare several times a month. >> reporter: but this was not a drill. >> it was a stormy day. we thought all was going well. >> reporter: angie abner was a nurse in the emergency room. >> of course, no one ever thinks it's going to happen. nobody was really taking it serious. >> reporter: but the tornado was churning toward the hospital at 200 miles per hour. there wasn't a second to lose. >> i was in a triage center and heard loud train sounds and our
security alerted me that we had to move quickly. >> the nurses had already warned everybody that we do have a tornado. go. >> reporter: patient paul johnson hit the decks. >> my son was with me, so he shoved me into the hallway. >> reporter: moments later, the tornado hit the hospital dead on. >> the whole building started going side to side like we were on a boat. >> oh, my gosh. >> everything just started flying at me. >> all the ceiling tiles came down. >> oh, it's getting big, big, big. >> pieces of the window come sailing around all over. >> ekg machines, gurneys are flying down a hallway. >> that is a monster tornado. >> and of course there was a whole lot of "our fathers" and "hail marys" going on. >> there were three co-workers in front of me. i started screaming for them to get down. pushed them under the
registration desk. >> reporter: before the tornado had passed, abner started crawling down the hall to find out if everyone was okay. >> most of our nurses were protecting their patients and directly protecting patients, laying over the top of patients because these ambulance doors immediately gave, blew through the e.r. >> reporter: when it was over, paul johnson could see the sky. >> i could look up through that ceiling right there and see blue sky. i could see some of the hospital had to be gone because i knew there was another floor above us. when i saw that i said, this ain't good. this is not good at all. >> reporter: but johnson was okay and so was mcdaniel and his family. >> my grandpa has bruises and cuts on his back. my grandma has glass still embedded in her hair, but we're a lot better off than a lot of people. >> this is bad. oh, my gosh. this is awful.
>> reporter: a lot of people in joplin were suddenly and severely wounded, but the biggest hospital in town was in ruins. >> having our emergency room destroyed turned the page on disaster plans. >> reporter: risko, at home on his day off, rushed to the hospital. he arrived to find a building he hardly recognized. >> the hospital was on fire, blackened. the top of the roof was gone. the doors to the emergency room were blown open. >> reporter: now, the newly wounded flooded into the hospital. >> they began running through and jumping over tables, through our e.r. doors that had busted open. many were bleeding profusely. immediately when i started seeing them, all fear is gone for myself. i mean, those patients needed us. >> reporter: as the injured flooded to the hospital for care, mcdaniel was desperately trying to get his grandmother
out. >> they took us down to the second floor and there was about ankle deep of water and we were trying to push the wheelchairs and everything through it to get people out. >> reporter: they wheeled his grandmother out of the hospital. then flagged down a passing car to drive them home. >> there was no crying. there was no screaming. >> reporter: the st. john's staff kept working. laser focused on their patients. >> we did what we had to do. and we all stayed, even though people were worried about their families. >> just a very short period of time we were able to evacuate over 200 patients to a safer parking lot and then transport them to area hospitals. >> this finger here was just lacerated wide open. >> reporter: patients like paul johnson were stabilized in makeshift triage centers. >> they were making do with what they had. so i tip my hat to them. it was that fast. they set up a system that fast that took care of people.
>> reporter: six people died at st. john's that day, but miraculously, most survived. >> this is the new tower. this is the original hospital. >> reporter: two days later, for jim risko, it's all sinking in. >> my heart's broken because my mom and dad died here. my son was born here. i have so many memories of working with the other doctors and the nurses and this is home. i mean, st. john's is more than a building. it's a spirit. we are asking what so many people in the midwest are asking. why? why are there so many powerful and deadly tornados this is year and how can you tell the
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oh, gosh. that is a monster tornado. >> as we have seen throughout this hour the signature of this storm has been its size and its power. we have been asking the question of how it developed. we're going to pose that to meteorologist chad myers. how did it happen so strong? people knew it was coming. they did what they were supposed to do and yet they really could not get out of the way. >> well, a couple things happened. the storm developed rapidly. even though the warning was out, with 24 minutes worth of notice the storm developed five miles from just west of joplin, just over here. the storm was on the ground as an f-0, small little tornado, but in five miles it became 200 miles per hour and more. just five miles. had this storm, had this spot right here been maybe 15 miles farther to the west so the
spotters were out on it saying look out, this is a huge killer tornado, get out of the way, get out of the way, maybe the immediacy would have been more. people would have been out of their cars. they would have been in buildings. a lot of people died in cars. you saw what happened to those cars. those cars were destroyed. it was a giant tornado. sometimes there is just nothing you can do about it. there's not a question. that's joplin, that little word right there. this is a hook echo, a monster cell. but it wasn't a tornado on the ground until it got right there. when the tornado got on the ground it ripped through joplin, missouri, got bigger and bigger. at some point in time at 200 miles per hour, even if you are in your safe spot in your house, if you are not under ground in a storm shelter you can't survive it. >> we have seen so many tough storms this season. is there something about this season or something about the particular storms that we are
just unlucky? this one hit joplin, another hit tuscaloosa. >> a few things that are different. we won't know for years exactly what all happened until somebody's master thesis figures it all out. let's go through things that are different this year than in a normal year. this is a normal jet stream. normal pattern. how is 2011 spring different? it's colder than normal on the plains. this is a record snow pack. there were 72 feet of snow in the alpine meadows. cold air across the northern plains. every time a cold front came down it was colder than it should have been. that cold air digs under and pushes warm air up and this has been an historic drought in texas. many of the storms should have been in texas. but if the air is so dry you can't get a thunderstorm you won't get tornadoes.
so the storms are waiting for the floodwaters here. every time the sun comes out it bakes the floodwaters, they evaporate and the air is more humid than it would be in a regular year. something else, the gulf of mexico is warmer than normal. you have colder than normal, warmer than normal. what does that make? a jet stream that's faster than normal. when you get a jet stream moving faster you get the potential for more shear, more difference between what the air is doing down here and what the air is doing down here. a faster jet can make and does make bigger tornadoes. this year, 2011, drew, we have had four f-5s or ef-5 tornadoes, greater than 200 miles per hour. we saw that. that's how joplin got to be 200 plus. there was one f-5 -- ef-5 in 2008. there was one in 2007. there was one in 1999.
and there's four already this year. we're into may and into june and we're still not out of the peak tornado season. >> i must ask you because when i see that i think of the next big storm threat which is a hurricane. >> mm-hmm. >> anything that says this historic drought, historic flooding, warm water in the gulf of mexico portends danger for hurricane season? >> maybe. the snow got here because of la nina. that is gone. la nina can bring bigger hurricanes because of the shear that it makes or the lack of it in the pacific and the atlantic and also in the gulf. i'm worried about the warmer water. we are always worried about the warmer water, but 2004 was a big tornado season. didn't kill a lot of people. we had a huge number of tornadoes. remember 2004? i do. charlie, gene, francis, ivan.
i was on the beach almost the entire summer. i didn't enjoy it because i was watching hurricanes come in one after the other after the other. >> chad myers, thanks. two cities devastated by tornados. joplin, missouri and tuscaloosa alabama, not just linked by tragedy, also by charity. up next, the future for both cities. ♪ [ male announcer ] in 2011, at&t is at work, building up our wireless network all across america. we're adding new cell sites... increasing network capacity, and investing billions of dollars to improve your wireless network experience. from a single phone call to the most advanced data download, we're covering more people in more places than ever before in an effort to give you the best network possible. at&t. rethink possible.
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i lost both my boys. i was hoping we'd find ryan today alive. >> officials announced dozens of additional names of the dead today. they range in age from 1 to 92 years old. joplin, missouri and tuscaloosa, alabama, are two american cities united in tragedy now. tornadoes devastated wide areas of the cities just weeks apart. people in joplin are still reeling from the disaster. tuscaloosa had a month to begin its recovery and that's where our david mattingly is tonight. david? >> reporter: tuscaloosa's tragedy occurred just a month ago when the tornado touched down here and devastated neighborhood after neighborhood. we came here now to find an abundance of hope in this city,
but recovery is moving slowly. one month since a monster tornado killed 41 people here. tuscaloosa, alabama, offers little hope for a quick recovery to the victims of more recent tornadoes in places like joplin, missouri. what's this over here? >> that's my grandson's tent. >> reporter: on the outskirts of tuscaloosa i find gayle harden in a moment of despair. >> today it just hit me that i'm not ever going to be able to go back home again. >> reporter: after living in tents for weeks with her family, almost everything harden had still sits in a massive pile next to the road. letting go of the life she knew has been the hardest thing of all. >> i don't know how to start over with everything because everything's just dirt and debris.
but i got my family and we'll make it. >> reporter: a thought echoed daily across tuscaloosa as small signs of hope emerge. the streets are finally clear. water is back on. electricity returns to more homes by the day. but one thing hasn't changed. so many neighborhoods like this remain in pieces, abandoned, lifeless ghost towns. in fact, if you look around and look at all this destruction that's still all around us here, it looks like the storm hit yesterday. and it feels like it to survivors whose lives were broken, bent and battered. what was it that went in here? >> that was a two by four. >> reporter: it went right through the house? >> right through the house. >> reporter: in one of the hardest hit areas, steven brown is the only one i find trying to rebuild. his house, the only one on the street still standing, but shredded, inside and out by debris. >> that was a piece of paneling
come through and wedged inside of that right there. just wedged inside that wall. >> reporter: if someone had been hiding in this closet that wouldn't have been safe either. it came all the way through. his family survived huddled and praying in the hallway. three next door neighbors died. a google view of brown street shows a neighborhood full of life. this is what it looks like now. after everything that's happened, what made you decide to come back? >> this is home. >> reporter: like so many hit by this tornado, brown is getting help from volunteers offering food and comfort. brown wants to tell the people of joplin, don't turn down help and don't give up. >> if you can't go anywhere else, you can always go home. >> reporter: would it have been easier to say, i'm not going
home, pack it in and start over somewhere? >> it definitely would have been a whole lot easier, but i won't let this get me down. >> reporter: a full month after a deadly tornado and so many still so slow to turn the corner from surviving to recovering. the determination here to rebuild. is palpable. the people here believe that these neighborhoods will be restored. but they will not be rebuilt, everyone believes, to what they used to be. they believe they now have to be better, stronger and safer. drew? >> david, i realize it's only been a month. but as i see the devastation behind you, the piles of rubble everywhere, i have to ask. what is the hold-up in getting the equipment that's going to be needed -- not the hands but the equipment, the trucks, the backhoes to pick up this junk and clear it out of the way? >> reporter: they have been doing that. they collected enough debris --
you should have seen it before. the streets were impassable. they have picked up enough debris to fill up alabama's football stadium all the way to the top and that's only a fraction of the job. they are going after it 24 hours a day. it was just so widespread and so much destruction that they are just now starting, they feel like, to turn a corner and get some real big things done here. >> a lot of people have been turning to the federal government, fema, for help. because i can imagine their insurance isn't going to cover anything. we got notice that fema is going to stay open on monday, on memorial day to help process some of that. is that process moving along? are people seeing signs of hope from the government? >> reporter: i can only answer for the individuals that i have talked to. right now, the people that you saw in my story, the man who's rebuilding his home and the woman living in her tents, both of them are receiving fema aid. the woman receiving enough to